Monday, June 05, 2006

The Bob Swipe Memorial Post

In the course of the research for my next book (he says, trying desperately to sound like a proper, grown-up writer), I've been trying to locate the first use of the word 'indie' in reference to a genre of music, rather than the status of the company that releases the music. There have been numerous dead ends, but I've always been fascinated by the haphazard, murky way in which neologisms stagger backwards into the limelight. It's not necessarily the first use that's important; it's the moment at which usage of the word or phrase hits some sort of critical mass. And, in many cases, the event should really be accompanied by a substantial side-order of WHY???

For example, why has the sensible, descriptive 'weblog' been superseded by the ugly 'blog'? Was that extra syllable really such a chore? As Alison Bradley puts it: "Blog is truly an unfortunate word. Far from appetizing, a blog inspires John Carpenter derived images of a blob in the fog, meandering through the web."

See, it could have been worse. We could all have been writing flobs.

Which is silly, of course, but not nearly as daft as this piece by Catherine Bennett in last Thursday's Graun, which suggests that the blogverse is characterised by "a redneck approach to sex and women", including "devil-may-care asides about porn, notes on the ugliness of women commentators, the beauty of young waitresses, or remarks... on the 'totty situation'".

To which the all-too-obvious response is to suggest that Ms Bennett stop worrying her pretty little head about such matters, and make us a cup of tea. On the other hand, if you would like to contribute your euro's worth of vitriol and hearsay to the continuing debate about flobbing, sorry, blogging, you could do worse than to allow Patroclus to delve around in the recesses of your grey matter for a few minutes.

Love-on y'all,



patroclus said...

Thanks Tim. The word 'blog' allegedly derives from one of the proto-bloggers (poss. Peter Merholz, poss. Dave Winer) pronouncing 'weblog' as 'we blog'. And lo! one of the ugliest ever neologisms was born.

patroclus said...

Also, strange blogworld synergies (heh heh) in that yesterday morning I was trying to establish my own definition of 'indie' (as in music, rather than films), which nearly became a blog post all of its own.

Of course that would have required too much thought and care and attention, so all I posted in the end were two mp3s ripped off other people's sites. Must stop doing that.

Billy said...

# What rolls down stairs
# Alone or in pairs
# Rolls over your neighbour's dog?
# What fits on your back
# Is great for a snack?
# It's blog, blog, blog!
# Blog! Blog!
# It's big, it's heavy, it's wood
# Blog! Blog!
# It's better than bad, it's good!

Not such a bad word now. Although I can't help thinking I should have changed the words to make them more appropriate. Oh well.

Tim Footman said...

Patroclus: if I were called Merholz or Winer, I'd want to ensure that something else could have a name uglier than my own.

And remember billy, sulphate's bad, m'key?

Spinsterella said...

When I first stumbled into the indie-rock world in 1990, there was a lot of sanctimonious debate about 'indie'.

Letters to the NME demanding that Only Records On Fully Independent Labels should be categorised as such. But when this rule was followed, the indie chart (every third week, oh the pain when it was the dance chart) on The Chart Show was full of Stock-Aiken-Waterman nonsense.

So pre-1990.

Did it ever REALLY mean independent label anyhow?

Tim Footman said...

Yes it did. Well, mostly. The first ever indie chart (Jan 19, 1980) was topped by 'Where's Captain Kirk' by Spizzenergi. Although hot on its heels was Fiddler's Dram and their bumpkin folk pop novelty 'Day Trip To Bangor'...

Otherwise: Joy Div, Dead Kennedys, Cab Volt, Scritti... not an ultrabrite smile within a mile.

patroclus said...

Excuse my terrible ignorance, but independent of what?

Tim Footman said...

Independent of the major record companies (at the time the likes of CBS, Decca, EMI etc) and their manufacturing and/or distribution functions. This is why the likes of Kylie were technically indie, because PWL was a standalone operation.

The whole thing went to shit by the early 90s, with crypto-indie labels such as Food (owned by EMI) coming into being, and big boys (hello, Sony) buying into labels such as Creation.

But up until about '87/'88, it worked OK. Think Mute, Factory, Rough Trade, 4AD, Cherry Red, One Little Indian, Sarah, Postcard, Kitchenware... although, of course, some people would argue that because of their success, they somehow ceased to be indie as such. The sanctimonious backstabbing was what made it all so much fun.

Spinsterella said...

Ooooh, I remember the furore when Carter USM "sold out" and signed to, I don't know, EMI or something...

It's a very crass black-and-white oway of looking at it, but smaller labels did often have an identity/genre/credibility of their own.

Which did lead to a certain typeof indie-kid assuming that EVERYTHING on, say, Creation would be fantastic. Proven wrong by the unbearable Slowdive.

I could talk about all this for hours, but the sun's just come back out.

Pashmina said...

This comments thread is a time vortex back to circa 1992. I'm rather enjoying it actually.

I see your Slowdive, Spinny, and raise you a Chapterhouse. *shudder*

patroclus said...

Oo, shoegaze revival backlash! Where do the commenters stand on Ride? I quite liked them myself. Obviously that had nothing to do with Mark Gardener's physical appearance, oh no.

I may have commented about this before. God I'm tedious.

Pashmina said...

Ride, you say? Mark Gardener's physical appearance, you say? Well it would have been churlish not to like them just because they had a morosely attractive lead singer now, wouldn't it?

(Short answer: yes, I was quite partial to both, as it happens).

Tim Footman said...

I would chuck a bucket of cold water over the pair of you hussies, but I can't help noticing that Andy Bell (who, in this sordid timeslip, has yet to found Hurricane #1, let along give up all his scruples and join O***s) has got about eight effects pedals on the go, so it might get a bit dangerous.

Pashmina said...

Actually cold water not a bad idea just now, it's terribly hot here today.

Robert A. Swipe said...

Christ, you lot don't half talk shit sometimes....

And what's the Bob Swipe memorial post lark when it's at home??

Cor, lummy strike a light. Thank Christ on a bike I was born a semi literate member of the working class and not with my head up my own arse...I shudder to think where I'd be now otherwise..............


Richard Lloyd Parry said...

Blog is infinitely superior to weblog, which would never work as a verb, and would never have generated those blogtastic neologisms such as blogosphere, blogoverse and blogocracy.

Blog on!

Tim Footman said...

Swipe: keep taking the bipolar pills.

Richard: it's better on a practical level, but it still sucks aesthetically. Like using 'they' as a non-gender-specific singular pronoun (=he/she). Ugh.

llewtrah said...

IIRC, a weblog used to mean a log OF the web not an online diary/logbook. It used to be a log of things an individual stumbled across on the web. Some purists rant and foam over the fact blogs are no longer lists of cool weblinks.

As for the loss of the extra syllable? In the modern, fast-paced world, humans value tersity. Compare text books written inthe 1890s with those written in the last few years. The older books are verbose. The recent ones are full of bullet points. We live in a sound-bite era.